December 8, 2005

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if I changed the name of the newspaper to the Memphis Republican? Trust me, plenty of folks have suggested it, and after this editorial, Iím sure there will be more.

Iíve never declared any allegiance to one party or another, but recently there have been several issues, which have gotten under my skin, leading me to believe I am far more conservative than I used to be.

I donít fly very often, so it may surprise you that I am riled up about air traffic. The Transportation Security Agency (TSA) recently announced it is making adjustments to its passenger screening guidelines that will once again allow individuals to board planes while in possession of once banned items like small screw drivers or scissors. TSA officials indicated that the changes are being made to allow existing manpower to focus on extra searches for bombs, and more dangerous materials. The plan calls for more random searches of carry-on items and other materials that could obviously prove to be more dangerous than a key-chain screwdriver or a metal nail file.

But a true politician canít pass up this opportunity to cash in on a chance for some public opinion points.

ďWe understand we have to plug new loopholes, but that doesnít mean we have to unplug the old ones,Ē said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who announced he would be working with House Democrats on legislation to block the changes in the list of prohibited objects.

Iím sure there are some in the minority party that believe, just as TSA chief Kip Hawley, that security personnelís time can be used in better methods than looking for these relatively inauspicious items.

Iím not simply begrudging Democrats for their stance on the safety issue, but it does point out one of the underlying differences between the two parties.

For the most part, Republicans have spoken out in favor of the policy switch, noting the importance of better using existing security personnel in a more efficient manner to stop more dangerous items from getting on board.

Democrats on the other hand, have grasped the other side, championing the truly safety cautious by stating not only should the TSA move forward with its new security measures, but at the same time maintain the old no-scissors policy as well. What does this mean? More federally funded union jobs of course.

Sure call me frugal, or worse a security Scrooge, unwilling to shell out my tax dollars for safer airports. I prefer to defend it as fiscal responsibility. It goes back to the battle between what we want, and a compromise between what we need and what we can afford.

Personally I donít feel the need to pay some guy $15 or $20 an hour to keep people from taking their toenail clippers or that mini-screw driver on to my plane. We all have learned the lesson of 9/11 and obviously would never let a nail file- wielding terrorist take control of the cockpit.

Iím not saying we should abandon airport security, but simply that we should let the TSA implement policy, which it obviously has studied and believes will make our skies safer. Trust me, the TSA is a priority, and if it asked for more money, I believe it would have no problem getting legislators to shell out the bucks.

Iím sorry, Iíll just never be a believer that the best way to solve a problem is by throwing money at it. Emotion often clouds logic, and the 9/11 aftermath and the veil of security may be enough to push the agenda to have the TSA policy revoked. If not, I can always apply for a second job as an airline baggage screener to help me be able to pay my taxes.

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